Flightspecific EVA training

Mission training for the flight resembled that accomplished by earlier crews for ascent, orbital operations and descent, but with an additional programme of EVA added several months into the training cycle. The EVA retrieval option was added to the

The Crew of STS 51-A pose for their in-flight portrait on the flight deck of Discovery. Left to right (at rear) are MS Dale Gardner, Commander Rick Hauck and Pilot Dave Walker. At front are MS Anna Fisher and MS Joe Allen.

crew's training programme in April 1984, giving them just seven months to train for the operation. Official training records revealed that final procedures and high-fidelity hardware were only available for the last month or two prior to launch.39 The EVA team consisted of Joe Allen (EV 1) and Dale Gardner (EV 2), with pilot Dave Walker acting as IV crew member and Anna Fisher as RMS operator. Commander Rick Hauck would support the EVA as required by backing up Fisher on the RMS, ensuring the orbiter was stable and taking photos through the flight deck windows.

With both Allen and Gardner having flown before, however, they were able to spend more of their limited time on developing their EVA skills, requiring only a small amount of time for basic STS refresher courses. Both had also been EVA trained (Allen for the planned EVA on STS-5 and Gardner as contingency EVA crew member on STS-8), so they could also bypass a large amount of EVA training basics. In addition, Walker had previously received a CB technical assignment in EVA/MMU training years before, in support of the Shuttle tile repair effort, and Fisher had worked on EMU design qualification for female EVA test subjects, and had performed simulated EVAs in the WETF, as well as becoming a proficient RMS operator.

Allen trained for his EVA by attending numerous flight technique meetings and hardware design reviews and undertaking hardware and procedural development exercises in the WETF and EVA retrieval equipment (stinger) design. He also undertook procedural development runs on the Air Bearing Floor (ABF); went through

Space Operations Simulator (SOS) and Space Environment Simulator (SES) runs, participated in hardware fit checks, dry runs and equipment selection and conducted hardware qualification runs in the thermal vacuum chamber. In addition, he attended management, hardware, procedures and programme reviews and numerous JSC, contractor, and customer meetings and teleconferences throughout the seven months. A scientist-astronaut with a PhD in physics and a background in nuclear physics, Allen was adding to his talents and skills as an astronaut-engineer in a very compacted time frame.

A total of fifteen water tank exercises were performed by both EVA crew members. Initially, Allen and Gardner completed individual WETF familiarisation runs, followed by fourteen two-man runs comprising one orbiter contingency EVA run, two combined orbiter contingency and retrieval development training runs, and eleven retrieval development training runs. Seven further simulations were completed at the MMU simulator at the SOS located at Martin Marietta in Denver, where an MMU familiarisation run was followed by six satellite docking simulations using the low-fidelity stinger (pole) mock-up and a simulated satellite aft end. More realistic visual scenes were provided in the SES, allowing the crew to perform MMU flights from the payload bay though to docking. Three MMU docking exercises were also completed using the ABF and three more in the RMS Training Facility, where Allen and Gardner stood on the longerons of the mock-up payload bay facility to simulate being in the bay, while the RMS was operated from the simulated aft flight deck in order to test communications and coordinate activities.

The crew also participated in the retrieval session of the Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT) conducted at the Kennedy Space Center several weeks prior to launch, where almost all aspects of hardware fabrication and stowage were practiced on both pallets. This proved not only to be a great training tool, but also revealed problems and differences that could be corrected prior to flight. In addition to the EV crew of Allen and Gardner, all three IV crew members (Hauck, Walker and Fisher) participated to great benefit, as their knowledge of both the pallets and the associated hardware increased to a level that made coordination and communications during the actual EVAs much simpler and more effective. Based on their training, it was decided that Allen would attempt the first retrieval. If that worked, Gardner would make the recovery attempt on the second retrieval.

In their closing comments on the EVA training programme, Allen and his colleagues noted in their flight crew report that: "It must be re-emphasised that the crew's intimate involvement in the procedures and hardware development cycle was a major contributor to the overall EVA training program and, ultimately, a prime factor in the success of a mission that had remarkably condensed preparation development, test and training time allowance.''39

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